The State of Iowa is getting one-and-a-half million dollars from the federal government to help finance efforts to help homeowners in danger of foreclosure. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says it’ll help deal with an "avalanche" of problems faced by people who can’t repay their home loans.
"There are so many problem loans and possible foreclosures and so many of them have to be handled sort of on a one-on-one basis that we need all the help we can get," Miller says. Miller’s encouraging Iowans to call the renamed "Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline" at 877-622-4866. It used to be called the "Iowa Foreclosure Hotline" and since September 8,000 people have called that number to get help with problem loans. Seven-hundred of those folks are now in mediation with their lender to try to come up with new payment plans.
Richard Booth of Stout, a small town near Waterloo, asked for help last April when he got two months behind in paying his mortgage and his car payments. Booth went to an agency in Waterloo that offers credit counseling and his finances are all cleared up — he and his wife are even putting money away in savings now.
"There is an organization…that will help people get back on their feet, make the right decisions and get you caught up on your bills," he says. "You know, I wish I had gone there earlier. My big mistake was I didn’t go there earlier. I had too much pride and now, hey, things are going good."
Iowa Finance Authority executive director Bret Mills says unfortunately half of the people going through foreclosure today never talked with their lender or creditors beforehand. "That seems like a staggering number because it is," Mills says. His agency is among those collaborating on the effort to encourage Iowans to call the Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline.
"Some of the reasons people don’t call is because they are despairing. They don’t understand the process. They don’t understand their options. They’re afraid. They’re sometimes embarrassed," Mills says. "Iowa Mortgage Help is meant to address those issues." The hotline operators will refer folks to one of eight financial counseling agencies around the state that’re set up to help.
Stephanie Preusch is with the Iowa Home Ownership Protection Project. "It is vital for Iowans to know that they should call as soon as they encounter financial trouble or as soon as they think they might be needing assistance," she says. State officials plan an ad campaign to publicize the Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline number.